Storytelling Through Data

April 26, 2021 Tricia Gabberty

storytelling through data

Does Your Data Tell the Whole Story?

As a marketer, you’ve heard the mantra: let the data tell the story. But does data tell the whole story? What about other consumer insights, third-party data, cultural trends and your own gut instinct? What is the right formula for getting to the truth?

I interviewed Carol Kruse, a Valvoline board member and former CMO for ESPN, for our Data Dialogues podcast about how she leverages data in her storytelling. She also draws from her deep experience in senior leadership roles at Cambia Healthcare and Coca Cola, where she was Global Head of Digital Marketing.

“I am the firmest believer in the marriage of art and science. You can have great creative, but if you don’t have the data and insights to create good storytelling, and don’t have the data and insights for where to put that message and when, and through what channel, you’re really missing it,” said Kruse. 

Kruse said that while data is essential to unlock the story, it won’t tell you everything. There are other sources to consider. 

“Data is both a blessing and a curse because some people take that first layer of data as gospel, and they go with it. And I think the smart data person or marketer says, ‘Hey, that’s directionally interesting. Even if it’s quantitative data, let’s see what else.’”

Listen to our podcast for the full interview.

Getting the Right Data to Tell Your Story

Below is an excerpt from our interview. It is edited for brevity.

I think it’s important as you say, to really have that finely tuned gut check and that inquisitiveness to say, ‘okay, so let’s not take the data at first blush. Let’s overlay it with some additional data points and consumer sentiment to help layer the story and give us a bit more of a composite. That’s what I’m hearing as you’re walking us through this. Is that correct?

Kruse: It is, and there is some magic to selling things in a company, right? So when you’re new in a company, it’s harder to anticipate what kind of objections or touchy points there would be. Or preconceived notions. 

But once you’ve been at a company, you tend to know some of the barriers to accepting data. And so I always found that I would try to talk with folks conceptually first and tease out what those either long held beliefs are or the reasons why they won’t believe the data. 

How would you coach someone on drawing out the data if their systems are not integrated or it’s difficult for them to get their queries pulled? How can they get to the insights that they’re looking for if it’s not going to be relatively easy to get to the first-party data?

Kruse: I used to think that so many companies focused on gathering so much data, most of which they never actually could act. Most people know that either there’s an opportunity in their company or there’s a competitive threat or their sales are going down, right? There’s some business issue that you are trying to work towards and you are using data to solve that question. 

So a lot of people waste a fair amount of time gathering data that isn’t actionable. So what I would suggest is prioritize the data. You need to make good decisions. Someone may say, ‘Oh, if only we had that, it could be better.’ And I’d say significantly better or 5% better? Well guess what, let’s focus on getting 90% better. Let’s act on that, and we can fine tune. Perfect can be the enemy of good.

Don’t miss our other blog articles in the Data Dialogues series:

Learn more about the Data Dialogues series and our hosts. And next time you’re in the car or at the gym, be sure to check out our other episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. If you like what you hear, please subscribe.

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